I’ve finished all six bottles of Eu Yan Sang’s Gold Label Bak Foong Pills last week. So yesterday, I switched to using this bottle of Wuji Baifeng Wan (烏雞白鳳丸). It’s just another name for Bak Foong, by the way, which literally means “white phoenix”.
I touched upon it briefly on a post from two years ago, so my 6-week journey with Eu Yan Sang was part of my larger intent to reconnect with TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and discover how incorporating them into my life again can be healing for me.
On the post, I’ve enlisted three of the many herbal formulas that my mother has long prescribed me to take, one of which is the Wuji Baifeng Wan. Over the years, I’ve been on an on-again, off-again relationship with each of these three, and now I just want to take things slowly at a time.
Herbal remedies and why there’s very little evidence of their efficacy
I felt it missing to leave off without learning more about the remaining ingredients on the Gold Label Bak Foong Pill. Not that I’m memorizing everything listed on the Li Shi Zhen’s Materia Medica or anything (and Jay Chou has a namesake song for it ;)), but I’m just interested in the confident claims of the Bak Foong formula’s efficacy in healing major governing systems of the human body – the nervous and the endocrine systems – also known as my double-edged swords whenever my perfectionistic tendencies kick in.
What I’ve found is that Chinese herbs weren’t made to be consumed separately. Organic as they are, Eastern pharmacologists prescribe concoctions of them to tend the particular ailment of the patient, instead of giving isolated drugs that has gained enough proven and anecdotal evidence on their effects to treat the ailment.
This might explain why there is very little clinical evidence in the healing effects of one particular herb or another – because most research began with a theory in mind and then followed by an isolated component of the subject to see if the theory applies. Whether it does or doesn’t in the end, researchers still needs years of trial-and-errors to see whether the conclusion of this study applies to a different set of variables in another study, not to forget the different methodology and procedures that have to factor in.
In a nutshell: TCM is difficult to identify and discriminate from their prescribed formulas, so consuming each herb in isolation will not give you the same effect as if you consume the whole concoction together.
As advanced Western medicine keeps conducting lab experiments to further their understanding on medicinal properties of a single vitamin or a trace mineral, the Eastern counterpart has only kept on applying time-tested practices, perhaps starting them from an even earlier age than the previous generations did. Up to this day, they continued to address a wide array of maladies using organic treatments to best solve the ever-growing problems in medicinal science.
The 7 herbs I’ve previously covered are:
- Angelica root
- Eucommia bark
- St. John’s wort
But now I’ve compiled my notes on all 19 ingredients of Eu Yan Sang’s Gold Label Bak Foong Pill into a complete slideshow below. Have a look:
One of the world's oldest medicines to boot, the recognition of honey as a remedy can be traced back to antiquity. With its high antioxidant content and potent antibacterial, antifungal, and antiseptic properties, the sweet stuff has long been used to relieve dry coughs and ease bowel movements, as well as a daily tonic to promote a healthy immune system, much as modern-day Olympic athletes adopt it to enhance their performance and delay fatigue. From a cosmetic standpoint, traditional Chinese women believe that regular consumption of honey helps to achieve a clearer eyesight and a rosier complexion. Unlike simple sugars, the qi-restoring, skin-smoothening au naturale sweetener is low on the glycemic index. This helps in maintaining blood sugar levels steady throughout the day.
Astragalus is known for helping to treat the common cold and prevent several seasonal allergies. But the ancient Chinese probably don’t know that it was also proven to extend to length of telomeres – a term my psychology instructor at the Academy once said to underline – and your long, stringy telomeres are the DNA molecules in your chromosomes that protect your genetic code while your body keeps undergoing cell division. This makes the astragalus, to a degree, preventing you from cancer. The herb is traditionally used to improve the immune system.
Who knew that animal poops are healthy? Banned in the States, waste of the presently-endangered flying foxes is claimed to fortify the liver and spleen, at least, in traditional Chinese medicine. Normally used to administer gynecological disorders, the dry-fried dung is believed to improve blood circulation during stasis, invigorating sluggish blood flow and alleviating abdominal pain.
Like in some of the previous herbs we’ve covered so far, the warming corydalis has long been used to reinvigorate the qi energy flowing in the the blood. The herb’s thick and heavy texture helps alleviate the symptoms of blood stasis through the heart and liver channels, such as chest pains. Scientists have also learned that the herb has anti-tumor properties and, to a certain degree, prevents breast cancer.
It is said that St. John’s wort benefits the spleen, the liver, and the kidneys – widely taken in the West to treat depression and other anxiety disorders. Clinically shown to possess antiviral, antioxidant, antibiotic, and anti-inflammatory properties, the leaf helps to relax muscle cramps, alleviate pain, heal wounds, ward off cold, and notably increase blood circulation around the pelvic area to treat menstrual cramps. Traditional health practitioners also claim that they also help in treating gastrointestinal problems due to its warming effect on the body.
Motherwort is central to conditions of the heart that are caused by excessive anxiety. The cooling, blood-thinning, anti-inflammatory tonic is traditionally used for women for the absence of menstrual periods, as well as for slowing down fast and irregular heartbeat, overactive thyroid, and disturbance from intestinal gas. The stasis-dispelling plant, a star remedy for attending infertility symptoms, also works as a laxative, and was also found to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells.
Commonly referred as the “female ginseng”, Eastern medicine practitioners have been using the antioxidant-packed Angelica root as a vitality tonic due to its potent factor in replenishing the qi energy flowing in the the blood, resulting in an improved blood circulation and a fine-tuned immune system, as well as a substantial degree of neuroprotection. Clinically, the dried herb have slowly gained worldwide attention because of its healing powers to treat various conditions, namely anemia, extreme fatigue, immune system disorders, several cardiovascular diseases, chronic bronchitis, and hepatitis.
Also well-known for restoring qi energy in the blood, the Eucommia bark has been shown to have particular beneficial effects on the bloodstreams circulating the liver and kidneys. Known as a yang supplement that strengthens bones and sinews, relieves lightheadedness, reduces high blood pressure, and alleviates chronic pain, among its myriad of yin-stabilizing, health-promoting effects, the Eucommia bark extracts, thanks to its phytoandrogenic and phytoestrogenic activities on the human body, also encourages an all-around hormonal balance.
The fungus is best known for its all-around calming properties, particularly nourishing the nervous system and treating overall weakness. Closely associated with the heart and spleen, Poria promotes urination and drains loose stools out of your system to prevent excess fluids from taking up the whole body, as well as inhibiting bacterial growth that normally leads to appetite loss and diarrhea.
Recommended for symptoms caused by inflammation throughout the body, the polygala root chiefly attends to lung conditions, such as asthma and chronic bronchitis. In mild colds, the soothing herb is claimed to cause sweating and increase saliva, as well as easing bowel movements. Polygala root is also a warming agent that fortifies heart and kidney functions by restoring balance of energy levels in the blood, treating conditions such as heart palpitation, insomnia, and other depressive syndromes.
The acrid brown cyperus, a sedative recently proven to have neuroprotective effects, works to restore liver and spleen health, and generally prescribed for regulating qi and bloodflow. Like its menstrual-regulating cousins, the antioxidant-packed, anti-inflammatory herb is effective in treating blood stasis, a condition usually resulted from emotional depression. Aside from its soothing properties, dosing on cyperus might help in treating stomachaches, indigestion, feelings of stuffiness, chest pain, and in expecting women, inhibiting uterus contraction.
The smoky, yet fragrant cardamom has a warming effect on the body, particularly on pathways around the stomach, the spleen,and the kidneys to promote a steady flow of qi. Active ingredients in black cardamoms work to dispel internal dampness caused by a stagnant bloodflow, which happens during intense emotional distress, as they ease intestinal movements and gastric bloating. Rich in antioxidants, the popular spice promotes good appetite and is claimed to be effective in preventing morning sickness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and other symptoms of miscarriage during pregnancy.
Historically, the Chinese enjoy them for its yin-restoring benefits on the liver, kidney, and large intestine channels, and no doubt for its toothsome bittersweet taste. Rich in healthy fats, the blood-replenishing herb is often taken to ease the bowel and prevent constipation, while others use it to treat a wide range of conditions that indicate yin deficiencies in the blood, including dizziness, impaired hearing, and blurred vision.
Commonly referred as the Sichuan lovage rhizome, the pungent perennial plant is marked for having therapeutic effects on the liver and the gall bladder. The tonic works to increase vitality by reactivating qi energy in the blood from stagnation, a normal case in menstrual disorders. Aside from increasing vitality and blood flow, the lovage rhizome is generally prescribed as a pain relief from headaches, mild colds, sore throat, and general feebleness.
Dubbed as the king of all herbs, ginseng affects all too many bodily systems that Eastern medicine practitioners have long consumed a portion of it like a daily multivitamin. Among the many benefits, ginseng has been shown to eliminate chronic fatigue, lower blood sugar, improve cognitive functions, increase appetite, prolong athletic endurance, and, for some, is effective as a caffeine alternative. Known to amp up and keep up energy levels, the therapeutic effects of ginseng is so extensive that it’s the most widely-researched herb in the Western world. The rich root also contains phytoestrogens, which might help restore hormonal balance.
A blood-replenishing, qi-bolstering herb, the pilose deer antler strengthens bones, muscles, and tendons. Rich in amino acids and lecithin, the rare essence, also noted as an aphrodisiac, treats general weakness and other symptoms associated with impotence. Active with its detoxifying properties, the anti-aging velvet improves the immune system, increases athletic stamina, and restores vitality of all bodily functions.
Atractylodes is a warming, qi-building agent for the spleen, the stomach, and overall immune system functions. Claimed to be effective in warding off the common cold, the tonic also help in dispelling abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, chronic fatigue, fluid retention, and improves digestive functions, as well as regulating the appetite. When paired with regular exercise, the anti-cancerous properties in atractylodes might aid proper muscle growth and in developing endurance. Marked as a pregnancy herb, the bitter roots are often recommended to prevent stomach, cervical, and uterine tumors from growing.
Long reckoned as the blood sugar level-controller, the anti-microbial cinnamon works to fight against bacteria and fungi in order to ward off the common cold during the chilly months of the year. Within the scientific community, multiple studies have shown that the acrid spice, which is also a yin tonic, improves insulin sensitivity in diabetic patients, as well as reducing hypertension, aiding digestion, relieving chest and other pains, and reviving sexual drive.
“It’s hard to be women – we have more clinical problems as we age,” sighed my mother once while she was packing for her annual appointment with her gynecologist in Singapore. “So it’s wise for you to start taking care of yourself now.”
Ever since puberty, I’ve never felt the cramps girls usually feel when they’re having their periods, but there’s a bigger price to pay for that convenience: Huge PMS. I believe I go 10 times more anxious than my usual temperament. Discomfort and pain occur psychologically rather than on my physiology.
On the other hand, I also believe that 6 weeks wasn’t enough to judge whether the white phoenix is really effective on regulating these roller-coaster moods, and by that, I mean reclaiming regular periods once again.
In the meantime, I’m making an effort to remain consistent with the same formula by Tong Jum Chew, which was further infused with black-bone chicken and other additional herbal ingredients that claim to boost women’s health. It’ll be a while till I can get my hands on the bottles by Eu Yan Sang again, which my mom usually gets in Singapore.
What about you? Do you consider incorporating TCM into your life?
via Eu Yan Sang /She Knows / Superfoods Scientific Research / Medicine Hunter / TCM Wiki / Wilderness Family Naturals / bidorbuy.co.za / Natural Health / Tea Herbal Shop / Mimi’s Dining Room / Sefood / Magic Herbs / Silk Road Spices / La Fuji Mama / What’s On Sanya / Made-in-China.com / cnseed.org / Phoenix Herb Company / The Magical Blend